Japan's quirky & delicious snack culture
We wanted to make sure we were paying homage to Japan’s unique snack culture in our Fall Box, and don’t worry we were up for the challenge of trying as many snacks as it took to find the keepers 😊. No matter what your taste buds are in the mood for, know that there is a Japanese snack out there for you. Wasp crackers or jellyfish candy, anyone? And don’t forget about the fun collabs like Mountain Dew Cheetos.
How did it all start?
Japanese snacks date back to the 15h century when Samurai would bring small portable foods that had a long shelf life with them into battle. The next boom for snacks came in the 1860s when Japan began importing sugar and grains. Western style snacks were among the first Japanese snacks produced at scale, and they quickly adapted to local flavors. Did you know there are over 200 flavors of Kit-Kat bars, and soy sauce, matcha, and sake are the most popular flavors in Japan? I mean, I like savory-sweet, but soy sauce?!? Snacks also gained their popularity as factories grew and workers were giving their kids pocket money. Japan has never been afraid to experiment with flavors, textures, and things never done before. That being said, this also means that snacks can be fleeting, and a common complaint is not being able to find a favorite snack again.
Is there really that much variety?
Yes! Japan has produced over 4.4 billion pounds of snacks in the last decade! That’s a whole lot of Pocky Sticks and hi-chews my friends. At a high level, there are savory snacks which are puffed or deep fried, with senbei (wheat flour-based crackers and rice crackers) being the most popular. Sweet snacks range from traditional sweets called wagashi to western style confectioneries (yô-namagashi), candy, and chewing gum. A traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony will serve you a wagashi as a special sweet to be enjoyed right before your bowl of Matcha tea to have that sweetness in your mouth first (see adorable pandas featured below from Atsuko, our Kyoto Tea Expert, below). Snacks are also engrained in the Japanese culture of buying souvenirs (omiyage) after travels.
What snacks are in our Fall Box?
Again, there were SO many snacks to choose from, but we knew we had to include senbei, a Japanese rice cracker. Japan boasts a rich rice culture and this is the godfather of all Japanese snacks. If you’re ever in Japan, make sure you try senbei fresh right off the grill. The Maruhiko Mame Ichiban Rice Cracker has the perfect ultra-crunch to it and we love the roasted black soybeans that are baked right in.
We also included another type of senbei that is wheat-based called Furata Aonori Senbei, which are a perfect snack to be enjoyed with your Matcha tea. They are mildly sweet, which we love, and taste like fortune cookie like pancakes with a dusting of seaweed on top for that hit of umami.
One of the most popular dagashi (traditional Japanese snack) in Japan are the Umai-bo Corn Cracker, a puffed corn snack. First sold in 1979, these have always been very popular. They are so popular in fact that you can find them in both convenience stores and supermarkets. Among their 20 flavors, corn potage, which we’ve included in our Fall Box, is the most popular. It tastes like creamy corn snack, which may sound a bit odd, but trust us, you’ll be asking how to get your hands on more.
The final snack you will find in this box is Caplico’s strawberry chocolates. Glico, the parent company, is the snack manufacturer that invented Pocky, soooo you know these are going to be good! They come in their own little egg-like carton so each strawberry-chocolate mousse wonder keeps it shape, and they are as adorable as they are delicious.
Finally we included some Kasugai Lychee candies. They literally take just like lychee and we’re in love. Kasugai Snack Foods is a Japanese confectionery company that manufactures candy and snacks for Japan and the rest of the world. Founded in 1923, Kasugai has a long history of producing confectioneries, and are most famous for their hard candy, gummy candy, and snack pea products
We hope you enjoyed this roundup of Japanese snack culture! What's your favorite Japanese snack?